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Mendon Musings

You have to hand it to the current Mendon Board of Selectmen and Police Station Building Committee for succeeding where others have failed over the past decades.

For those who haven't lived in town all that long, the "new" police station opened somewhere around 1994 after about $100,000 was spent to convert the former concrete block Highway barn into the current facility. Previously, the Police Department was housed in the lower level of Town Hall.

Thankfully, the "old" Highway barn/"new" police station is slated to be razed once the "new new" station is completed. It has outlived its use as a town facility.

This year, everything aligned just right: The location "fronts" on Main St. in Mendon's village center. A prominent building – the "old" fire station – is being recycled and expanded. And, the money is there without a tax increase. By using a combination of solar energy farm Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement monies, Community Preservation funds, and the ending of a school debt exclusion, this project is covered.

Just to be clear about the financing – the tax rate will not go down – as it normally would – when the school debt exclusion is paid off this month. Part of the cost of the "new new" police station debt will take its place. The rest of the "new new" police station debt will be paid off by using the PILOT payments. And – because the "old" fire station is a historic building – some will come from the Community Preservation surtax.

If you hear someone say that your property tax rate will not go up because of the "new new" police station, they are technically correct. However, property tax rates are determined by a myriad of factors – the annual rise in the town's operating budget, for example – and they undoubtedly will rise due to those other factors.

Now, the question becomes of what to do with the shell of a building that volunteers erected near the "new" fire station? The town owns the land and the building and, already, lots of uses have been discussed for it. For example, the Parks Department is eyeing it as a place to run revenue-generating classes and programs – which would pay for the money needed to complete the building.

The town also needs to decide what to do with the main floor of the "old" library. The bottom floor has been converted into office space (and a small meeting room) for several town departments, but the upper floor will need to be made handicapped-accessible before it can have a public use.

But, these questions aside, sincere thanks are due to the folks in charge of the "new new" police station project. A modern, safe and up-to-building code police station has long been needed and now we'll get one, in a good location and in the most economic way possible.


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